Oh, take me back to the Russian island of Sakhalin – and its all too British weather

Plus, forget the green onesie, against all odds Nick Clegg's weekly radio phone-in on LBC is fast becoming must-listen

Share

In like a lion and out like a lamb or, as seems to be happening this year, the other way round. March has a habit of springing surprises, but it was still with some incredulity – and, yes, I admit, not a little smugness – that I watched the TV coverage of lorries stranded on the M23 and blizzards sweeping Scotland, from a hotel room overlooking the sun-lit shore of the eastern Mediterranean.

Scotland’s blizzards continue, along with the school closures, the transport disruption and everything else that comes in their wake. But what this year’s retreat of spring confirms, after the briefest of sightings at the start of the month, is that our weather really deserves to be a talking point. This is part of the thesis of a new book by Richard Mabey, with the charming, rather retro title Turned out Nice Again, which considers our preoccupation with the weather.

The point is, though, that our ability to make small talk – and even big conversation – about the weather would not be a mystery to most foreigners. They might ridicule it, but as they, and anyone who has lived outside the UK for any length of time, will cheerfully attest, British weather is peculiar. There are not many places in the world where outdoors is so volatile – where sun and showers alternate with such speed, where summer can suddenly become so cold, or winter become so warm, or a rainbow so summarily end a storm.

You probably learnt at school, as I did, that the British Isles have a “maritime climate”, but that was a bit of a simplification. We have a maritime climate that is also peculiar to our latitude, and which is additionally influenced by the Gulf Stream and the proximity of the Continent. You can sense a change the moment you cross the Channel. Even northern France and the Benelux countries are ever so slightly different from us; that bit more predictable, that bit drier. Travel farther east or across the Atlantic and you are soon in a full-on Continental climate.

On my travels, I’ve found very few places where the weather feels anything quite like our own. The Canadian Maritimes are like Scotland, but not quite. There’s some affinity with parts of Japan. But it is only in Sakhalin – the island where Russia’s tsars sent their prisoners – that I felt at home, weather-wise. Cool, damp, often foggy, and unpredictable, Sakhalin’s climate seems oh-so familiar. No wonder we talk about the weather; it has – as Mabey is hardly the first to observe – contributed, in a very elemental way to the national character. 

Yes, do call Nick Clegg

What with Chris Huhne and Lord Rennard, the Lib Dem leader has had his recent tribulations, not all of which were expunged by the victory at Eastleigh. But Nick Clegg risks having another success, with his weekly phone-in on LBC, which is fast becoming a must-listen.

So far, Clegg has vouchsafed, among much else, that he has a green Onesie (unworn), that he agonised about where to send his son to school, that he would not be visiting Huhne in prison. He comes across as informed, personable and relaxed. He makes headlines – invariably of the right sort. Here’s the Clegg whose pre-election debates came as such a revelation.

LBC boasts that this is the first time a Cabinet minister has had a regular radio slot – though Margaret Thatcher had an open invitation from Jimmy Young. But for the Deputy PM who, as the junior partner in a coalition, can struggle to get his message out, it’s a commendable move, and one that other politicians might emulate – if, that is, they have the guts. 

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah ibn Abd al-Aziz Al Saud back in 2010  

The media cannot ignore tricky questions when someone dies. But it must stick to the facts

Will Gore
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us